These Are The Days

Smart ~ Writer ~ Mom

Month: March 2016

A Doll, A Squeeze, and a Connection

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that pretty much every mother knows the feeling.

Whether it’s the first day of daycare, preschool, kindergarten, or college, there’s an ache that comes when it’s time to walk away. Are they ready? Will they know what to do? Will they miss me? 

I remember the first time I left my little one at daycare, nearly 11 years ago. I had clung to her almost obsessively for the first two years of her life. I had just landed a great part-time professional opportunity and was ready to get back in the swing of things, but a cloudy haze of postpartum depression and anxiety unknowingly loomed over me. Looking back, I can see how my depression manifested itself in an almost unnatural relationship with my daughter. I pushed everyone else away and made her the center of my world.

No wonder she cried when I dropped her off. I was all she ever knew.

When she needed to be held or comforted, it was me she turned to. Not my husband. Not our friends or family. ME.

And so when I accepted this job, I realized I would have to start pulling away a little bit. The only way I can describe it is like this: it felt like I was leaving a vital organ behind. We would no longer be tethered. It was like a deep grief that worsened when she cried at the doorway and tearfully waved goodbye to me. It was heartbreaking. The only thing that made my legs work was knowing she was in a clean, safe, fun environment with professionally trained caregivers. I held back tears and stopped in the main office before I left. I begged them to call me every hour with an update on how she was doing. They were nice, but not overly sympathetic to my emotional state. I knew she would be cared for, but I felt like I was falling apart.

When I finally got to my car and drove the 20 minutes to work, I cried the entire way. The roads were still unfamiliar to me in this strange new town. My tears made the signs blurry. It’s a  wonder I didn’t get lost more often.

I cleaned myself up a bit before going into work. No one was the wiser. Within a matter of minutes, the center called. They emailed a picture of her laughing and playing with the other kids. The time stamp on the picture was 15 minutes after I’d left. She was doing fine.

A few weeks later, she skipped into her new “school” and searched for her friends and fell into the routine of coloring, dancing, and story time. It was a hard adjustment – but I often wonder if it was harder on me than her. I wish someone had told me back then that everything would be OK.

So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found myself crying in the parking lot this morning after dropping my youngest at PreK.

She had been very clingy this morning, as kids sometimes are. Not crying or upset, just needing some extra mom hugs, which I absolutely love and am happy to oblige. I grabbed my keys and yelled “It’s time to go!” She came down the stairs and into the kitchen carrying her doll in her arms. I could tell she had just dressed her and brushed her hair. Her baby, whom she named “Anya”, was all dressed and ready for school. Please can I bring Anya to school today?

Her school doesn’t do show and tell on a regular basis and toys from home are generally not allowed.

But something pulled at my heart and before I knew it, I said yes.

When we got off the elevator on the second floor of her school, we could hear the screaming from all the way down the long hallway leading to her classroom. One of her classmates was having a *really* hard morning. Crying – no, wailing. When we walked into the class, we saw the girl’s mom fighting back tears. The teacher had swooped in and was trying to comfort and reassure the little girl.

But the mom was left standing there.

Her face was red, a mix of embarrassment and desperation. Her eyes were watery, fighting to hold back the emotions. She put her hand to her mouth nervously and started to walk out. I squeezed her arm as she walked by and whispered, “You’ll be OK, she’ll be OK.”

And then I noticed that my daughter had walked over to the sobbing girl. She wanted to share her baby doll with this little girl to help her feel better. The doll that isn’t normally allowed in school, but on this day, was able to help this little girl calm down and even smile a little. My little one made a connection this morning.

And apparently so did I. When I left the classroom, I was a little teary too. I saw the mom talking with the school director and as I walked past, she squeezed my arm and whispered, “Thanks.” She couldn’t make eye contact. No doubt her vision was a little blurry, just like mine was on that day long ago.

And of course once I got to my car, I cried my little eyes out.

#MicroblogMondays: Writing in Books – Yes or No?

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(Creative Commons)

I started reading a memoir this weekend called, “God and Jetfire” by Amy Seek. She’s a birthmother and this book is the story of her pregnancy and the decision to place her child in an open adoption. I have no preconceived notions and I’m only about 100 pages in so far, but it’s stirring up a lot of different feelings. I’m curious how this woman’s experience will differ from or run parallel to my own experiences. Some of her words make me think yes! And others elicit a great big nope!

I’ll definitely post a review once I finish, but in the meantime, I was struck by something else. I find myself doing something I haven’t done in a while. I’ve begun writing in the text and in the margins of the book. PROFUSELY. I just feel the need to underline or circle or highlight a passage that made me stop in my tracks. Or jot my thoughts in the margins so I can remember what I felt at that moment. Maybe it’s the topic, or maybe it’s a long-forgotten habit that I’ve since picked up again.

The last time I wrote in a book so furiously was when I read “Eat, Pray, Love.” I was going through some stuff at the time and Elizabeth Gilbert’s book really spoke to me. (But omg how can anything Elizabeth Gilbert writes *not* speak to people, amiright?)

So I’m curious. Do you write in books? Are you a highlighter or a notetaker? Or is writing in books a kind of sacrilege? Is it the worst kind of defamation and graffiti?

To me, notes in the margins, highlighted text, and dog-eared pages are signs that I’ve enjoyed the book and more importantly, that I’ve learned something. I revere books, but I’m totally cool with “personalizing them” in this way. What do you think?

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This post is part of #MicroBlogMondays. Head over to Stirrup Queens to find out more. 

Amazing

I took the long way to work and, looking back, I’m glad I did.

The sun was shining (a rarity on a cool March day in upstate New York) and the hilly landscape was dotted with houses, churches and farms. Five deer along the side of the road actually trotted along with my car for a while. It was an amazing sight.

It was four years ago today – my last day at the job I’d held for nearly eight years. My family and I were off to a new adventure in a new state. I remember thinking that if someone had asked me eight years earlier if I was looking forward to moving to Syracuse, I would have said no. I didn’t expect to like Syracuse that much. And I certainly didn’t expect to love it. But I did. And I still do.

We started our family there. And we began traditions in Central New York that have now become treasured memories.
Eight years of apple picking at the same beautiful hillside orchard where we always got apple fritters and rode the ponies.
Eight years of seeing the butter sculpture and the cows, chickens, bunnies, and horses at the Great New York State Fair.
Eight years of shopping at the greatest grocery store known to man.
Eight years of sledding on the big hill at the park and going for sleigh rides in the forest.
Eight years of building bears and visiting Santa and riding the carousel at the mall.

Eight years of Onondaga Lake Park, where my oldest daughter learned to climb steps and swing high. We rode bikes and flew kites at that park in the summer and we drove our car along the bike path to see the gorgeous Lights on the Lake holiday display in winter.

Each of these memories is like a little painting etched on the walls of my mind. A gallery that I can visit whenever I unpack the solid red apple-shaped ornament from the orchard we visited each fall and hang it on the Christmas tree. Or when I hear someone here in Delaware complain about snow and I think back to the one year the snow drifts were more than ten feet high … and school was not cancelled.

If you had the chance to look at my mind’s gallery, you’d see more than just the experience of it all. You’d see people. We made lots of great friends in our little town and also through my daughter’s dancing school and elementary school. But my real connection to people came through my work. I was hired at a community college in late 2005. I was 35 years old, a new parenting mother, and I felt grossly inadequate in my new role as a “writer.” What? A writer? Me? I had done lots of things professionally – but none had the title writer attached to it. In spite of my feeling like an imposter, I was given a chance and for that, I’ll be forever grateful. I learned so much and I was stretched in ways I didn’t think possible.

But the people at this college? Second to none. We supported each other through marriages, divorces, births and deaths. We commiserated over difficult people and impossible deadlines. We talked sports and politics. We told jokes and celebrated birthdays. It was a great place to work. And while it’s a really good college, it’s a great place to work because of the people.

My heart was heavy on this last day. I said goodbye to dear friends and with each bear hug I was trying to steal a little piece of them to take with me. The  lump in my throat – the kind that really hurts and you know that if you just open your mouth a little bit the ugly cry will take over – told me that they were already with me. They were in my heart. They had each become a new painting in the gallery of my mind. I did cry. And so did they. This was an amazing experience and an amazing chapter in my life.

I told my husband just yesterday that seeing commercials for the greatest grocery store known to man felt like home. Isn’t that weird?

I’ve lived in a few different cities. And no matter how long or short a time I was there, they’ve each come to feel like home. Thinking about Melrose (my hometown), Boston, Hanford, Orlando, Chicago, Syracuse or Morris County NJ is like walking through a gallery of memories in my mind.

As I left work that last day and got in my car quickly so as to hide the big fat ugly tears streaming down my face, I turned on the radio. The song was “Amazing” by Josh Kelley. I forever associate that song with my time in Syracuse. I heard it this morning while driving my little one to preschool. Coincidence that I heard it on the four-year anniversary of my leaving? Nope. Pardon me for being a little corny, but I think it’s just amazing 🙂

Exercising My Right #MicroblogMondays

Today is Election Day in our small little town.

Up for grabs are three seats on the town council. Three incumbents are running for re-election against three newbies.

It’s interesting to see the back and forth on the local community Facebook page and our particular neighborhood blog. Stories that only those “born and raised here” would remember are being brought up again to inform us newcomers. Historically, the turnout for the town’s elections has been quite low. But over the last several years our town has seen tremendous growth. After the housing market crash and resurgence, there were a number of “communities” that sprung up. Each has about 300-400 homes and a decidedly younger electorate. Many of those moving here are young families from neighboring states (NJ, MD, and PA).

Even if you barely know me, you know that I’m passionate about politics and the political process. I fully intend to vote (polls open at noon!) I’ve researched the six candidates and have made my decision for the three I’ll be voting for. (Each voter can select up to three candidates).

I’m just hoping the turnout will be good. But I worry it may not be. Historically, fewer than 1,000 people vote in these town council elections.

The mudslinging that’s going on today is small potatoes compared to what we’re seeing on the national scale, but there are many similarities. Chief among them: fear-mongering. I am not a fan of playing to people’s fears and capitalizing on them. But I don’t necessarily blame the “mongerer,” (although don’t get me started on Trump) – I blame the electorate. WE. THE PEOPLE. Are we really so enamored by the reality-TV world we live in that we’re willing to forego any real discussions about the economy, education, the environment, etc. in favor of championing the guy that tells it like it is? The guy that has insulted virtually every group of American citizens? The guy that argued about his manhood on a national stage?

I will never understand blindly following another candidate. EVER. Many that know me may assume I’m voting for Hillary, but you know what? I’m undecided at this point. I try to do my research. I read and watch and listen. I don’t get it right all the time, but I like to think my decisions are informed rather than just impulsive.

Side note: there was an article on politico.com recently about the one quality consistent in all Trump voters. Can you guess what it is?

AUTHORITARIANISM.  Basic premise is that if you are inclined to follow authority and believe in authoritarian principles, you’re more likely to stand behind a guy like Trump.

Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened. From pledging to “make America great again” by building a wall on the border to promising to close mosques and ban Muslims from visiting the United States, Trump is playing directly to authoritarian inclinations.

Of course authoritarians come in all political shapes and colors. It’s not a Democrat or a Republican thing. But it’s a fascinating premise and totally worth a read.

I did my due diligence in this “small potatoes” election because it’s not so small potatoes to me. This is the town I live in. This is the town my family lives in. Our daughters go to school here. How can I not be engaged in the political process? How can I just blindly trust that those elected to do their jobs are actually doing their jobs?

I only hope that my friends and neighbors have also done some research on these candidates and decided for themselves the best people to serve our town. There are a lot of people complaining about certain issues, but the voter turnout doesn’t reflect a caring attitude. If you don’t vote and you choose to be complacent, you have nothing to contribute to the discussion.

No excuses. Go vote.

This post is part of the Microblog Mondays series – and after I re-read it I quickly realized this post is decidedly NOT micro in any way, shape or form. But who cares! 🙂

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